Manchester United beat local rivals Manchester City on three occasions in injury time last season. Michael Owen grabbed a late winner in the dramatic 4-3 win at Old Trafford, Wayne Rooney made in 3-1 and knocked City out of the League Cup, contrary to Garry Cook’s very public assertions, before United denied City entry to the Champions League with a Paul Scholes’ injury time winner at Wastelands.
All in all, it was a good season for United where bragging rights over our locals were concerned. We got the last laugh over our noisy neighbours and added another year to the banner, after personally seeing to it that they wouldn’t win the League Cup.
Jack Pitt-Brooke, who writes the excellent City blog, The Lonesome Death of Roy Carroll, has reflected on last season as well looking to the future.
Scott the Red: With hopes of silverware and finishing in the top four dashed, were you happy with your team’s performance last season?
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Of course I was disappointed to have missed out on fourth but overall I was pleased. I certainly think Roberto Mancini did a better job than people think. He arrived in difficult circumstances and were it not for Spurs’ late surge we would have made fourth.
STR: I suppose winning just one of the final five games of the season didn’t help either. But it’s a new season now, so what are your aspirations?
J P-B: I think that fourth is a reasonable minimum expectation. I’d much rather win a trophy, which I think is quite plausible given the depth of our squad.
STR: Leicester City, Blackburn, Portsmouth and Middlesbrough have all claimed silverware over the past ten years, so I’d agree there’s no reason why City shouldn’t be ending their trophy drought this season. However, I suppose that’s the beauty of knock-out competitions, you just never know who’s going to win them. Several players joining you recently have claimed they are there because they want to win trophies but who do you expect to be your most important player this season?
J P-B: If he plays like he can David Silva will be the real difference maker. There are not many players in the Premier League with his imagination and ability. I do think, though, that he might take a while to settle into the pace of the game and we ought not to expect too much too soon.
STR: He’s just one of may players Mancini has identified as someone capable of making the difference, but how do you rate Mancini’s ability to make the difference to City and take your club forward?
J P-B: I rate Roberto Mancini highly. As I said, he did a good job last year in difficult circumstances. He is very tactically astute and a much more authoritative man-manager than people realise. I’m certain he is the right man to take us towards trophies.
STR: Robinho and Craig Bellamy are amongst those who haven’t been keen on his style of management, whilst Carlos Tevez claimed he was speaking on behalf of the team when critical of his training methods, but he certainly won his fair share of trophies in Italy, even if some were by default. Anyway, what’s the best chant you’ve heard sung by your fans?
J P-B: At the 4-2 at Stamford Bridge three guys stood behind me started singing ‘Nigel de Jong Nigel de Jong Nigel de Jong’ to the tune of ‘Panic’ by The Smiths. That was good.
STR: Lots of people (granted, mainly City fans) talk about the power shift in Manchester. Where do you think United will finish this season?
J P-B: If you sign Mesut Özil then I think you’ll win the league. If not I think Chelsea will do it but they’re very dependant on Michael Essien getting back to his best and maybe recruiting another forward. I think Chicharito will be crucial in allowing you to manage Rooney’s workload intelligently without compromising on dynamism.
STR: Yeh, Chicharito certainly looks pretty handy so far, but if you could have any two players from our current squad, who would you pick?
J P-B: Wayne Rooney, obviously, and Paul Scholes. I would have said Patrice Evra but he conducted himself shamefully at the World Cup.
STR: I know. Fancy sticking up for your team mate who has been sent home from the World Cup on the say so of a magazine! Shocking. Anyway, lots of City fans are enjoying United’s debt problem, displaying ‘Love Glazer, Hate United’ banners during our 1-0 victory at your place last season. What are your thoughts on the debt?
J P-B: Well it doesn’t keep me awake at night but it’s obviously a shame for the fans given that it has prevented Ferguson from giving the squad the regeneration that it requires. I imagine he would have been much more active in the last few transfer windows with more resources available.
STR: Certainly. He’s won at least one trophy every year since the Glazers came which is pretty incredible. He did that in spite of them so imagine what we would have won without them sucking the money out of our club… Anyway, what is your favourite game your club have played against United?
J P-B: Probably the 4-1 at Eastlands in 2003/04? The last derby at Maine Road was also special.
STR: And your worst?
J P-B: The 4-3 last season still sickens me. But we showed good spirit there so it’s not as bad as the 1-0 at Eastlands in 2008/09, which was pathetic.
STR: Lots of City fans have spent the past 20 years criticising United spending money and have been particularly critical of glory supporters. How do those opinions fit in with the change in situation at City? Are you not now aspiring to be everything you’ve criticised United for?
J P-B: It barely even needs to be said that I’d rather we won things with a team of home-grown players. But you just can’t transform a mid-table side into a successful one without a big cash injection. If we ever win anything it will not feel at all sullied or dirtied by the money we have spent. I’d be surprised if we attracted glory supporters for a while yet, given the hegemony of the Sky Four.
STR: What do you anticipate being the biggest draw back, if any, of City bringing in so many new “superstars” on such massive salaries?
J P-B: There probably will be dressing-room tensions, particularly given that not all of our egomaniac forwards can play at the same time. But I trust Mancini to keep a lid on this. Of course, bringing in players on silly wages also means that if Sheikh Mansour gets bored we have a fairly big wage bill that needs to be cut.
STR: City’s academy has brought through the likes of SWP, Richards, Ireland and Onuoha in recent years. How much game time do you imagine these players will have next season and what do you rate the prospects of other youngsters being brought through the ranks from now on?
J P-B: My best guess now is that SWP and Richards will stay but that Onuoha and Ireland will leave, which is a real shame. If we have a good season we’ll play 60-70 games so I’m sure those that stay will play some football. Mancini keeps saying he is keen to bring through the next generation, particularly Dedryck Boyata, Vladimir Weiss and so on but we’ll just have to wait and see.
STR: Robinho was your first “superstar” signing and got fed up very quickly. Adebayor has recently confessed he wants to leave for Juventus, whilst Carlos Tevez said he was struggling to motivate himself to play. Are you concerned your other “superstar” signings will go the same way if you don’t win anything/don’t finish top 4 this season?
J P-B: If we don’t get in the top four I don’t think Carlos Tévez, David Silva or Yaya Touré will be too impressed. But there’s a difference between not winning anything and not finishing fourth, and if we show improvement across the board I’m sure we will maintain their interest. I think the failure of Robinho is more to do with lifestyle issues and the pace of the Premier League rather than simple dissatisfaction at City’s performances.